[Album] Koda Kumi – feel my mind

feel my mind is the third album released by Koda Kumi. While the three singles weren’t as successful as her big hit from her last album, they still did moderately and were all top 20 hits. The album itself peaked at #7 and sold around 150,000 copies.

feelmymind
Released: February 18, 2004
1. Break it down
2. Crazy 4 U
3. Rock Your Body
4. Rain
5. Without Your Love
6. Talk to you
7. Hana (華; Flower)
8. Get Out The Way
9. Sweet love…
10. Gentle Words
11. magic
12. COME WITH ME

Break it down opens the album on a heavy note with its stronger hip-hop/R&B elements. I think it’s an interesting way for Koda Kumi to go despite not really delving into this sound a lot on prior albums. I quite like the beat because it’s a bit unorthodox, but the rest of the music feels a bit too slow. The song just lingers between fast-paced and mid-tempo and I just want it to be a bit more hard hitting. It’s also not that catchy. Crazy 4 U should have opened the album. The album’s third single, this one is much more upbeat pop song that has some qualities to her older songs. The thing I like about this song though is that it is catchy and the disco-esque chorus is a surprising twist. It’s definitely not her most memorable upbeat song as the hooks could be a bit stronger, but it definitely brings some great energy. Rock Your Body brings back the more urban style, but with some pop flavour. I think the addition of the guitar in the music really brings a different, funky vibe to the song that helps the song feel like it’s progressing. The chorus switches things up by going really pop and bright in its melody. I’m not a fan of these kinds of songs and while it is catchy, it just doesn’t work feel like everything blends together as well as it should. Rain is the first ballad and brings the gentle 90’s R&B/soul style. I quite like how the song starts, but the verses are just dull. The chorus is definitely better, but the melody just isn’t something I would remember that well. It sort of teeters on being emotional, but doesn’t quite hit the mark. I wish it pushed it to the next level as it sort of lingers. Without Your Love was a B-side from the album’s second single. It’s another upbeat R&B tune and I think it is the strongest of the urban tracks up to this point. The melody is catchy and I quite like the horn-like synths in the back. It’s definitely something that emulates 00’s R&B. Talk to you is a bit more pop/R&B and lighthearted, which is a nice change. I like these kinds of songs and Koda works well in it as well. It has the potential to get boring, but I think the bright music and catchy melody helps to keep the energy up. I especially enjoy the title-repeated hook as it is done in a way that doesn’t get overbearing. Best album track up to this point. Hana is another pop/R&B ballad. Like Rain, it has a more laid back feel to it but I like this one more just because the music has some energy and power during the chorus that doesn’t make it from getting too boring, which is what my problem with the last ballad one. The melody isn’t that catchy either, but it is definitely more memorable. A decent ballad anyways. Get Out The Way is an upbeat R&B song and I quite like the beat to this one because it sounds a bit off, but still works nicely. The melody is what I expected as it does get a bit more pop, but I think it’s catchy and reminds me of some of the material from her first album that I liked. Sweet love… is a midtempo pop tune. Unfortunately, this song isn’t particularly catchy nor memorable. The music is nice, but I just feel the melody is boring and doesn’t really have the hooks to work with the exciting music. It’s not a bad song, but it isn’t something I would really listen to again. Gentle Words was the album’s second single and my favourite song off the album. This one is a laid back pop/R&B and I love so many different aspects to it. The music is dreamy and the synth-line is absolutely beautiful despite not being particularly in-your-face. The melody is quite memorable and Koda Kumi sounds stunning here as she has to control her voice way more. Just a beautiful track. magic is a nice follow-up to the last song as it continues the smooth R&B sound. The difference is that the melody is definitely more passionate, which is a nice change. I also like Koda Kumi’s vocal performance here because she uses her lower register in the first half, which is a nice surprise. She also sounds great and in a comfortable range during the chorus. The best album track in my opinion, although it is a bit long. COME WITH ME is the album’s first single and is best known for its risque single cover. It’s a pretty solid song though, especially on this album as it brings a stronger disco sound. My main gripe though is that the verses are really strong and then the chorus hooks are just not as memorable and it relies a lot on the fun and explosive music. The weakest single, but it does grow on you a bit.

Overall: This album isn’t as strong as her second one, but it’s still a solid release. I think this time the singles weren’t as strong, although they were all strong (especially Gentle Words). The album tracks were definitely more consistent, but there were as many really great moments in that area as well. I think the album does well in continuing the sound she had on her last album, but it doesn’t really change things up much, which isn’t bad, but it would be nice to hear her experiment a bit more.

B

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[Album] Koda Kumi – grow into one

grow into one is Koda Kumi’s second album. Unlike her first one, this one featured a huge hit in the form of real Emotion, which sold over 280,000 copies. The album itself features three of the singles (four A-sides) and proved to be a hit, hitting #8 and selling over 180,000 copies.

growintoone
Released: March 19, 2003
1. Teaser
2. real Emotion [MV]
3. BOY FRIEND?
4. Your only one
5. one
6. One night romance
7. 1000 no Kotoba (1000の言葉; 1000 Words)
8. S.O.S ~sound of silence~
9. m・a・z・e [MV]
10. Ranhansha (乱反射; Diffused Reflection)
11. Pearl Moon
12. Nasty Girl
13. To be one
14. love across the ocean [MV]
15. 1000 no Kotoba (Orchestra Ver.) -bonus track-

Teaser is an interesting intro that includes rappers Clench and Blistah. It has a really fast-paced beat and has a cool upbeat vibe to it. I do wish the beat wasn’t so weird, but everything else is pretty cool. I do like that it swings right into real Emotion. This fun dance/pop tune just has so much energy to it and has a bit of a futuristic sound to it. The verses are pretty cool, but it’s the intoxicating chorus that really gets things going with the blast of synths and fast beat. Koda Kumi also sounds much stronger here than she did in her first album and she benefits from the song staying in her range. Great. BOY FRIEND? brings a cooler R&B tune. I quite like the melody of the song, but I am a bit unsure of the beat. It feels a bit too fast for this song and I feel like something stronger and slower would give it a bit more impact. That and the beat sounds so much like the last two songs, so I wish there was a bit more variety. It’s a good song regardless. Your only one is the first ballad and it’s (as expected) an R&B ballad. I do like that Koda’s voice is much better here and she keeps within her range. The song itself is decent, but I feel like it’s lacking that hook in the chorus to really get my attention. The beat also sounds like it came from the last song. I thought one was going to be another ballad, but it’s actually an upbeat R&B song. I do like there is a little bit more going on in the background and the beat is different, however, I feel like the melody just doesn’t match that well with the music. It’s not bad, but there’s something missing. It does have a cool rap. I quite like One night romance. I really enjoy the beat as it is much heavier and works great with the mix of sparkly synths. There are also some cool parts that pop up like the Destiny’s Child-like background vocals. The melody isn’t that catchy, but it does well with the beat and I do feel like Koda sings it with emotion. It’s a pretty cool R&B tune. Easily the best song on the album, 1000 no Kotoba is one of my favourite Koda Kumi songs. As the second half of the real Emotion single, this song was used also used in Final Fantasy X-2. It starts as a calming ballad with a nice guitar and light beat, but when the chorus comes around, it gains a lot of energy. I really love how the chorus just sweeps in with the strings. The melody is really gorgeous and Koda Kumi really sings it with emotion. Stellar. S.O.S ~sound of silence~ brings us back to the upbeat R&B sound. I do like how much darker it sounds and it reminds me a bit of songs from the 90’s. With that said, I’m not a big fan of the transition from the slower verse to the really fast chorus. Also, the melody just isn’t very memorable for me and it sounds similar to a BoA song. m・a・z・e is actually a really cool song and was the second single from the album. I do like that it has a stronger dance/pop sound to it and reminds me a bit of the singles from her first album. However, I do think this song is much stronger than some of those ones as the chorus is catchier. Koda does strain a bit on some notes in the chorus, which sort of detracts from the cool factor of the song. Ranhansha does have a bit of a stronger R&B influence to it and is a bit darker than the last song. With that said, the song just isn’t that interesting. The music has some cool aspects to it, but everything feels so flat. Even the melody just cruises along with the music. Pearl Moon starts off with a beautiful piano and Koda singing. It’s actually quite nice and I do enjoy how it just keeps it simple throughout by not introducing too many instruments. I do wish there were some strings for the final chorus just to give it a bit more life and a climax, but it’s still a pretty nice listen. Nasty girl has a wicked electric guitar going on and some funky beats, but I don’t think it totally matches the title as well as I want it to. It has a bit of a ska feel to it with the inclusion of the brass, but the song itself just sort of stays in an average level. I actually think things would be improved on if the beat was taken out as it just doesn’t fit this song. I quite like To be one with its more upbeat disco sound. The fast-paced beat is really great and works well with the synths and touch of brass. The melody is also quite catchy and Koda sounds great. It is a pretty strong album track. love across the ocean was the first single from the album and it is probably the song that most resembles the dance/pop style of her first album. With that said, this is one of the stronger ones. I love the verses as they sound so cool, while the choruses are striking with the heavy percussion and odd synths. While I do think that Koda’s voice is a bit screechy in the chorus, she does work it in the verses. It’s a fun song. As a bonus track, there is 1000 no Kotoba (Orchestra Version). Everything is slowed down and the melody is more pronounced. I do like the arrangement as it focuses more on the strings. To be honest, I don’t think it totally fits the verses, but it works really nicely with the chorus. I still prefer the original, but this is good.

Overall: This album is stronger than her first. I feel like her first had a lot of issues with so many tracks sounding similar and there was a lack of standout tracks (love TAKE BACK though). grow into one brings a bit more variety and has some strong singles as well as a few good album tracks. I do feel some of the album tracks were fillers and I wish the R&B sound was a bit more experimented on.

B

[Album] Koda Kumi – affection

Koda Kumi didn’t hit it big until her seventh single, Real Emotion. Prior to that, she had some moderate success with a few top 30 singles. Her first album, affection, also hit number twelve on the Oricon charts and sold close to 100,000 copies.

affection
Released: March 27, 2002
1. atomic energy
2. Trust Your Love [MV]
3. Go Together
4. Your Song
5. feel me
6. COLOR OF SOUL [MV]
7. Best Friend Of Mine
8. My Dream
9. So Into You [MV]
10. Till Morning Comes
11. come back
12. TAKE BACK [MV]
13. Can’t Lose
14. walk

affection opens with a funky intro. atomic energy is largely made up of a robotic beat, synths and a few odd background vocals thrown about. It’s a cool opening and helps to pump the listener up. I’ve never been the biggest fan of intros, but it does a good job flowing into the next song. Trust Your Love was the most successful single released from the album. This upbeat R&B/pop track has some cool qualities to it. I really enjoy the slew of different synths that are used for the song. It is pretty interesting have each section of the song has its own distinct flavor and style. The song is quite catchy, but I don’t think it’s the strongest of her singles. In fact, it’s probably my least favourite of the singles on the album. I always feel like it is missing something, most particularly during the chorus. Go Together pretty much continues the sound from the last song but slows things down to give us a funky pop/R&B midtempo jam. I actually prefer this song to the last one. The execution seems much better and more polished. The sound is quite interesting as well as it seems to fuse some of the 90s J-Pop qualities with some of the newer ones found in the early 2000s. The beat and melody mix well with the more contemporary arrangement and it gives a pretty cool blend. With that said, my only gripe is Koda Kumi’s voice. She does sound good during the verses, but she sounds really harsh during the higher notes of the chorus. Your Song slows things down even further with a nice R&B ballad. One thing I really enjoy hearing from Koda Kumi in her early days are her ballads. However, Your Song has a few things it could work on. While I love the relaxed feeling of this song and you can definitely see it as a predecessor for her later R&B tunes, it isn’t as polished. The verses are actually quite stellar and very well done. I love the melody here, but the chorus isn’t executed as nicely. I feel the melody is too bouncy and Koda’s vocals are too grating for certain parts of the song and it doesn’t fit well with the gentle arrangement. feel me changes things up by bringing an upbeat dance/pop tune. I really enjoy the more futuristic sound of this song. It’s a fun tune to hear, but I don’t think it’s particularly strong. The melody is somewhat forgettable and while Koda’s vocals are actually masked by a vocoder during the chorus, I don’t really like it since it loses some of the emotion from her voice. The beat is really cool and the synths are quite funky, but this isn’t that strong and drags on. COLOR OF SOUL has one of the cooler openers for me. I really like the dadada’s at the start and they really let the song slide right into the great verses. Definitely one of the stronger songs on the album, I really like this one because of its distinctly early 2000s J-Pop sound. It’s pretty straightforward pop with some dance elements and it works really well with Koda’s tone. I did wish the song had an extra punch to it though. Best Friend Of Mine is a pretty cool interlude with its acapella qualities to it. It’s quite short but has a lot more singing than the intro. The sound is a lot more soulful than the rest of the album, however I wish the song didn’t mask the vocals and just let Koda let it rip. A striking upbeat dance/pop tune, My Dream definitely has the qualities to be a lead track. In fact, the music is very similar to that of COLOR OF MY SOUL. With that said, I actually find this one stronger. The melody is more interesting and I like the unpredictability of it, like the second half of the chorus where things deviate a little. I also like the music during the chorus. The arrangement is pretty sweet with its odd beats and electric guitar. It’s a fun mix and a little strange, but it surprisingly works out quite well. So Into You was the fourth single from the album and one of the stronger songs. I really love the verses here. They are probably my favourite from the whole album as Koda just sounds so relaxed and in control of the melody. The chorus is also quite strong and actually features a pretty well-executed sound. I think the arrangement is a bit bare compared to some of the other songs, but the melody is definitely more interesting. Definitely not as in your face as some of the other songs, but a nice change. Till Morning Comes features VERBAL from m-flo. I do like how it takes the general synthed up sound of the album and morphs it with some hip-hop elements. With that said, I think this is one of the messier songs. There are some interesting elements of the song such as the music, but the melody is all over the place and the flow between Koda Kumi and VERBAL just doesn’t work that well. His parts in particularly just don’t work with this kind of song. Next please. come back is the first full-fledged “ballad” on the album and one of the few songs that doesn’t have a strong dance or R&B influence to it. Largely piano-based with some synths, the song is a good showcase of Koda’s vocals. With that said, you can definitely hear her improvement in later albums as there are times here where her voice just doesn’t come too smoothly here. I wanna like this song a lot and I like some of the qualities about it, but it is quite boring in the long run and sort of just drags on. I especially get annoyed at the chorus line, “I wanna come back to you~”, as the notes at the end of the you are just so poorly executed. Thankfully, TAKE BACK arrives and helps to save things. I love the more apparent R&B influence in this song and Koda Kumi really works it. With that said, the best part of the song is the instrumental break that has such a funky riff that helps give the song some flavor. I really love the feel of the song and the verses are really cool. Koda Kumi really does best with her lower register and her voice works well with the beat when she’s relaxed. The chorus is quite nicely executed, too. I like the melody a lot and it is very catchy. I also enjoy how dramatic it is, but there are definitely some things with the vocals that could be worked on. My favourite from the album. Can’t Lose pretty much continues the sound of the rest of the album, but it has some cool qualities to it. Like the last song, the coolest part is definitely the instrumental breaks in between the singing parts. The song in general is quite cool and could have easily been made into a single since it sounds so similar to some of the others one here. What I do enjoy about this song though is that Koda Kumi stays largely in her more comfortable zone in terms of singing. There aren’t as many higher notes where she has to go into the more grating sound. She really sounds the best in this song. walk ends the album on a slower note. I really love the R&B feel of this song, especially during the verses. She really has a good voice for these kind of songs. The verses are in fact my favourite part of the song as the melody is really beautiful. I love the darker quality of the music here as well. The chorus on the other hand really explodes with an array of instruments and power. I like the strength of it, but it’s not the most musically appealing sound. I do find Koda to be overpowered by the music and she ends up screeching her way up to the higher notes. I wish she kept the darker sound of the verses though as the choruses are very bright in energy.

Overall: I want to like this album more, but there are some things that I’m not a big fan of. I enjoy the cohesiveness of the album as it helps to create a nice unison between all the tracks. With that said, while most of the songs have unique qualities to them, there are a few that tend to have a more predictable feel to them. Also, I found myself enjoying the verses way more than the choruses. This is partly due to the melodies themselves being much more charming but also because Koda Kumi really sounds good using her lower register. I do think there are some cool tracks, but for the overall sound of the album, it feels like it is lacking in some really stellar songs (besides TAKE BACK though).

B-